Croydonites Festival of New Theatre reloaded, by its director

By - Monday 6th February, 2017

Homegrown talent rubs shoulders with the best from around the UK as the Croydonites Festival returns

Photo by Sh!t Theatre, used with permission.

In November, 2015 I presented four pieces of contemporary theatre under the banner Croydonites Festival of New Theatre. A Croydonite is one way to describe someone from Croydon, Croydon Nights are exceptionally good nights out in the theatre…in Croydon. Pretty good, huh?

It was a huge endeavour, mainly self-financed but very rewarding. So much so that I’ve done it again. Only this time I got some Arts Council money that was matched by Croydon Council’s new Cultural Partnership Fund. (My thanks to them for a simple but effective programme.) The mission of the festival is to provide a showcase for local artists as well as bringing some of the best performance work from around the UK to your Croydon doorstep. Look out for the ‘Croydon Created’ sign on the website if you want to support home grown talent.

The programme includes eight companies in five venues including the Spread Eagle Pub Theatre, Turf Gallery, Theatre Utopia and two venues within the Town Hall, the Council Chambers and the Braithwaite Hall, where we’ll literally be building a theatre in each space.

I’m particularly proud to be commissioning locally-based performers and artists

There are three artists from Croydon and one former resident on the bill; the rest will be jetting in from different parts of the UK. I’m particularly proud to be commissioning local theatre maker and performer Jenny Lockyer to make a work about the pilot Amy Johnson. When Jenny told me that she’d been percolating this idea for some time, it seemed obvious to give her the money to make it. Most of us know that Amy Johnson flew from Croydon to Darwin in 1930, but less well known is her talent for engineering and her passion for the future of aviation. Jenny’s work imagines what she might have achieved if her life had not been cut short at the age of 37.

Photo by Jamal Harewood, used with permission.

Anita Wadsworth and Owen Kingston are also Croydon based artists. Anita is well known for her work with Slide Dance Company and numerous community projects. She will be creating an installation at Turf Gallery presenting one of the stories in the series Adventures in Noggle Noggle Land. Lucy and the Party will offer up some late night story telling for the adults followed the next day by a chance for the kids to get in on the action. It’s all described as ‘a fruity non-alcoholic cocktail for the kids, and a shot of vodka for the grown ups’.

Owen Kingston specialises in immersive theatre. His work Morningstar is told through a lone performer and in an interactive environment. It’s a story about beginnings and choices, about who you can trust and who you can’t, about the birth of evil and the death of innocence. All happening at a secret location in Central Croydon…

The visiting companies include Sh!t Theatre, a duo regularly touted as ‘one to watch’ by national critics. Letters to Windsor House won a Fringe First at Edinburgh last year and was nominated for a Total Theatre Award (only twenty nominees from over 500 works). It examines the London housing crisis with songs, politics, dodgy landlords and detective work in a ‘hilarious and heart breaking’ (Sunday Times) show for the demographic now knowns as ‘generation rent‘.

Jamal Harewood is a young Brighton based artist; his first professional work, The Privileged, is a participatory event that uses the excitement of a polar bear encounter as a way to explore race, identity and community. When I saw this work at Camden People’s Theatre, it stayed with me for days afterwards. I was astonished that such a simple idea had such power. It’s hard to talk about because if I say too much it will ruin it, but he challenges some very widely held ideas in society and the very nature of performance itself.

Two girls double-talk on the edge of a kiss

Shane Shambhu is a well-known Bharatanatyam dancer, a form that comes from southern India. He grew up in the east end of London and was sent to dance classes at a young age due to being a little overweight. His charming show, Confessions of a Cockney Temple Dancer, charts his life growing up in a Western culture whilst simultaneously immersed in an ancient dance tradition. The effect is a humorous, honest and multilingual reflection on what it means to be British today.

GETINTHEBACKOFTHEVAN is a performance company at the vanguard of British live art. Playing with ‘glory, endurance, artifice and the banal’, their mission is to transport the viewer. They’ll be bringing their work Oral to the DescARTes Gallery in Matthews Yard. It’s a durational performance where ‘two girls play a three hour game of double talk on the edge of a kiss’.

Many of these performers are dealing with change… rather like us

Presented in association with Theatre Utopia, How to be a Girl! by Zella Compton, is darkly comic ensemble theatre at its finest. A startling unstoppable comedy that looks at the pressures which young women face from the media on a daily basis. Presented as a magazine, with a sneak peak between the covers of How to be a Boy!, this show also tells the story of Lily, and of the consequences of too much pressure. ‘Don’t miss this show! Help your teenager deconstruct the rubbish thrown at them on a daily basis’ (Jessica Woodfall: No More Page 3).

It’s a great programme, but of course I would say that! Each work has some connection to Croydon, whether it’s a personal one, or because it examines something that is relevant to our town. Many of these performers are dealing with change, also a little bit like us! What unites them is their ability to bring their inner worlds to life in unique and adventurous ways, confounding expectations at every turn.

The Croydonites Festival of New Theatre 2017 takes place at venues across Croydon Town Centre from Thursday 16th March until Saturday 1st April.

Anna Arthur

Anna Arthur

Anna Arthur is a mum of three, dog owner and director of Croydonites Festival of New Theatre. Born in the north-east, she grew up just outside of Portsmouth but London and Croydon have been her home for over 20 years. She also works in contemporary dance - but don’t hold that against her.

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